Habitot Children's Museum

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Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111

Parenting Q&A

Parenting Question of the Month How can I encourage my child’s interest in art?


Parenting Q&AEncouraging children’s interest in art can be tricky for parents who really care about it, because often kids pick up on the subtle pressure, or they sense a standard that’s impossible to meet. Most kids do like to create art, whether it’s coloring, scribbling, playing with clay, painting, building things, or experimenting with art materials. To keep their natural interest in art, it’s more about what parents don’t do than what they do.

Parents must remember that true art is a process, not a product. Where art is concerned, it’s the process of creating -- exploring, discovering, and experimenting -- that has the greatest value.

The creative process might be messy – so being overly concerned with neatness will deter your child. Better to find materials and places for art making that you can live with. And with young children, their finished products might not look like much. It's tempting to want our children to turn out "cookie-cutter perfect" arts and crafts to prove that they are successful and on track. But letting your child express themselves and being OK with the results builds greater interest in art.

Just like all early growth and development, young children’s art abilities develop gradually from scribbling to shapes to representational art, and a child can’t really be hurried along his or her path. Showing your child how to draw something before he or she is ready will create an impossible standard that may stop your child from trying. If a child asks you to draw a cat, for example, it’s better to help them by asking, “does a cat have ears? what shape are they?” instead of drawing a cat for them.

So rather than ‘teach’ children art, simply teach them how to handle art materials and give them somewhere safe to use them.

Here are some tips on encouraging art and creativity in your young child’s life:

  • Be enthusiastic about your child's art. Show appreciation for the effort while remaining neutral about the result.

  • Avoid general praise ("that's so beautiful”) which sends a conditional message that you like this particular drawing. (They will notice the next time your fail to say their work is beautiful and become more inhibited in their art making).

  • Make specific comments instead, such as, "I love all the bright colors you used!" and "You cut the shapes out very carefully!" In this way, a child gets a sense of what they are good at.

  • Make art supplies available and accessible to your child. A special place in the home or outside can help keep the mess contained.

  • To keep costs down, make your own play dough with kitchen ingredients, use food coloring for water colors. Recycled paper is fine, ripped up magazines are great for collage. A paintbrush and a bucket of water for painting on the sidewalk on a hot day is fun!

  • Be on the lookout for unexpected items in the home such as bubble wrap, packing material, magazines, old shoe boxes and flower petals that can be used in art making.

  • Create art in unusual ways. Use Q-tips for paintbrushes, corn cobs for paint rollers, shaving cream for sculpture. Paint with fingers, paint with elbows and toes. Paint in the bathtub.

  • Have your child tell you about his artwork. Ask open-ended questions about it and let him know what you see and enjoy about his creation.

  • Celebrate your child’s artwork – display it around the house, turn it into birthday/greeting cards or wrapping paper (with her permission, of course). Framed preschooler art looks amazing.

  • Get creative yourself – let your child see you making art.

  • Notice the arts all around you – in museums, on the subway, in parks and other public spaces. Start a conversation with your child about what you see.

  • For new ideas, inspiration, and all the creativity and fun of art without having to clean up the mess, bring your child to Habitot’s Art Studio or to a morning drop-in art class. Art With A Science Twist takes place every Wednesday through March 23 from 10:00-10:30am. $6 drop-in!

  • Parenting Resources

    Kohl, MaryAnn F.The Importance of Art in a Child's Development. 2011. Barnes & Noble Web Site: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/maryann-kohl-importance-of-art/379002442/

    Fetter, Bette. Art Smarts: The Benefit of Art for Every Child. Bette Fetter 2011. Power in Art Web Site http://powerinart.org/2011/12/art_smarts/

    Francis, Kathleen. Take Time for Art's Sake! 2008. Earlychildhood NEWS Web Site: http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=489

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